Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The masks slip further

click photo to enlarge
The UK's feeble coalition government is currently basking in a warm glow after months of limping along from one piece of bad news to another. They feel that George Osborne's Autumn Statement on the economy went much better than expected, that the Labour Party's response was poor, and that they can feel more confident about the public accepting the prospect of a triple dip recession and the fact that the government has missed virtually every economic target it set for itself. Moreover, in planning to introduce an unnecessary piece of legislation, the purpose of which is to further cut the state benefits received by what they call "shirkers" - the unemployed, low paid workers and the disabled - they feel that they have put Labour in the awkward position of having to vote against something that has quite a bit of popular support.

However, I think they have seriously misread the British people. In fact, such was the effect of the performance of David Cameron, George Osborne and Danny Alexander, I'd like to see an Autumn Statement every week. Why? Because Cameron and Osborne seem to have forgotten what they learnt from Tony Blair, namely that presentation is as important as content in these days of mass media coverage. What I saw in their delivery of the Autumn Statement was so much more than "two posh boys who don't know the price of milk", as one of their own MPs described the prime minister and chancellor. Certainly that remoteness from everyday life was evident in their policy proposals, but it was overlaid with what came across to me as sneering, scornful, guffawing contempt for everyone who opposed their programme and for the "shirkers" on the receiving end of it. The mask that they adopted before the election, and which remained in place for a few months afterwards, has been slowly slipping with every policy statement, every piece of legislation, every prime minister's question time and in every TV appearance. Last week it fell away almost completely and what was displayed came across as ugly, ignorant, spiteful and un-British. I seem to recall that this coalition promised a new kind of politics focused on what was best for the country, that eschewed the old "yah boo" slanging matches. How quickly that was forgotten and business as usual took its place. However, I have a strong feeling that the unedifying sight of the smirking coalition front bench fully revealing themselves (including Danny Alexander's "do I laugh out loud or don't I" equivocation) will linger long in the minds of the British public.

The chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, has been described as an "economic illiterate", and it is undoubtedly true that his Ayn Rand, Chicago school, "market knows best", "cut the state" prescription is one that has been deliberately ignored by those countries that have most effectively dealt with the current recession. But Osborne is also known as a consummate political plotter, the main strategist within the Conservative Party, who does nothing without measuring its influence on their chances of re-election. After Wednesday's performance perhaps it is also time for a blunt re-appraisal of his status as a master of the dark arts and a latter day Machiavelli.*

All of which has nothing to do with today's photograph of a group of mallards swimming across and spoiling the perfectly reflected trees in a pond at Swineshead, Lincolnshire. Though, in retrospect, it may have a bearing if they are lame ducks.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 12.8mm (60mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: 2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/125
ISO: 250
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On